Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Fourth for Tennis

The 4th of July is just like any other summer day here in London.  Cool and cloudy with scattered showers.  Apart from a few restaurant specials and gatherings at local pubs, there's not much going on to commemorate Independence Day here.  That's understandable, since the Brits would probably rather just forget the whole thing ever happened.  Josh's colleagues tease him that the 4th is considered "Good Riddance Day" here.

Since it's not a holiday in the UK, Josh had to work, but he came home early so we could head up the hill to the All England Lawn Tennis Club to watch Day 9 of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.  Since we live in Wimbledon, it would be a shame not to go at least once!  (I went twice last summer and really enjoyed it.)

We reached The Queue around 4:30 and were pleased to find there was no queue -- we just breezed right through, bought our £17 grounds passes at the turnstile, and we were in!
Tennis on the 4th of July
 The first order of business: strawberries and cream!
Andy Murray was playing in the quarter-final against David Ferrer of Spain in Centre Court, so every inch of Henman Hill -- or should we call it Mount Murray? -- was covered with spectators watching on the world's coolest big-screen TV.   We found a couple seats up in the stands at the very top of the hill and joined the exuberant crowd to watch the game.
Watching the action in Centre Court
After a couple sets we decided we'd rather not spend the entire time watching TV when there were plenty of other matches we could see in person.  Since it was Independence Day, it seemed fitting to support the American players, especially since everyone else seemed so focused on Andy Murray.  (The last British man to win the men's singles at Wimbledon was Fred Perry in 1936 -- but no pressure, Andy!)  We found the top-seeded American mixed doubles team playing in court 14 with hardly any spectators, so we settled into the front row to watch the rest of the game.
Bob Bryan & Liezel Huber
There's a big difference between sitting in the front row and watching a giant TV from the top of the hill!  I think their coach was sitting right behind us.  Bob Bryan and his twin brother Mike won the men's doubles at Wimbledon last year, and Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond are the top-seeded ladies doubles team, so the US has a good chance of winning at least one of the doubles titles this year.
 Our additional support must have done the trick, because Bryan and Huber won their match!

After grabbing something to eat, we headed back up the hill to the resale ticket booth to see if we could score tickets to watch the Williams sisters play their doubles match in Number 2 Court.  When people with reserved seats in one of the show courts (Centre Court, Nos 1, 2, and 3) leave early, they are asked to scan or hand in their tickets so the seats can be resold to other tennis fans with grounds passes -- and the proceeds go to charity.  It's a great system!  We were able to get two tickets for £5 each and hightailed it back to the other end of the grounds to catch the rest of the match.

We had already missed the first set and part of the second by the time we got there and there was a break in the play to let us in.  We were surprised to see how empty the stands were.
Venus & Serena play in front of a lackluster crowd
It was a good game, and we recognized their opponents from a match we had watched last summer -- one was American, the other from India.  Can someone explain to me how you can play doubles with someone who lives on the opposite side of the planet?  There seem to be a lot of pairs from different countries playing at Wimbledon. 
The sisters confer between points
The Williams sisters persevered and won their match as well.  Clearly we are a good-luck charm!  (Although not so much for the American on the other team...)

As we were leaving the Number 2 Court, we walked past an excited mob swirling around an extremely tall guy with shaggy blonde hair.  He was posing for photos and signing autographs, but I had no idea who he was.  I asked a woman who was snapping photos if she knew, and she wasn't sure either, but said her husband told her he played for the Dallas Mavericks.  I wasn't sure what an American basketball player was doing at Wimbledon, but I did some research when I got home and identified him as Dirk Nowitzki, who is German and played tennis as a teenager.  He is SEVEN FEET TALL!  Sadly, I didn't have my camera handy, so I didn't get a photo, but if I was standing next to him I'd look like a hobbit.

If we had been in Centre Court, we would have seen Will & Kate seated next to Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in the Royal Box, but this was our only celebrity sighting of the day -- apart from the tennis players themselves.

Ooh!  As I'm writing this, I just finished watching Serena Williams win the ladies semi-final and the Bryan twins win the men's doubles quarter-final.  Go USA!

So, no fireworks, no hot dogs on the grill, and no sweltering heat, but we still managed to celebrate the 4th of July by cheering on our fellow Americans at Wimbledon.   I still miss the fireworks, though...


  1. We were fortunate to have center court tickets that day, and it was so exciting to see Will and Kate and Andre and Steffi in addition to a lot of great tennis!

  2. What a great day to be in Centre Court! I hope you got some good photos!


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